Newton speaks to Lions on budgets

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 4, 2004

State Representative Charles Newton spoke at the Greenville Lions Club meeting at noon Monday and discussed several key economic issues facing the state.

Newton, a Greenville native and local businessman, was able to provide a great deal of insight as to the coming budget cuts facing the state.

Newton began by explaining that there are two major budgets that must be considered when the legislation begins meetings; the educational budget, and the general fund.

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The educational budget, which is $4 billion, appears to be in good shape.

&uot;The indications are that the economy is picking up,&uot; said Newton.

&uot;If that trend continues we should be in better shape than we anticipated for the educational budget.&uot;

However, the general fund, which requires $1.2 billion, could be in danger. Because of this, a variety of cuts may be needed.

Among the programs hit could be a $50 million cut in Medicaid.

This figure goes far deeper than the potential $50 million cut.

&uot;This would be a huge problem because the government matches the funding 3 -to -1,&uot; said Newton. &uot;That means that there would be an additional $150 million that would be lost.&uot;

The government has proposed some possible ways to help with the budget problems.

Among some of the issues discussed will be a state lottery, as well as taxes on beer and cigarettes.

Each of these items would likely produce a great deal of revenue.

Newton felt that the lottery issue would probably make a strong comeback..

&uot;The lottery will likely be a big topic of discussion,&uot; said Newton. &uot;It is predicted that it can produce up to $100 million so I’m sure it will be addressed.

Newton also said that a tax on deeds and mortgages that could produce up to $45 million could come under review.

A soft drink tax that could produce up to $200 million may also be in the works. The tax, which cost 5 cents per- container would have the potential to raise almost half of the $500 needed to allow programs to remain intact.

Teachers may also see an increase in the monthly amount in which they pay for health insurance. Currently, teachers pay $2 per month for coverage. That amount may increase to up to $30.

Though there are many ideas to help with the budget problem Newton did not know that the problem would be completely solved.

&uot;Even if we find the funding to keep everything in tact I don’t know that it will help in the long run,&uot; said Newton. &uot;The cost is increasing each year and there is no sign of that trend ending.&uot;

Newton’s speech opened the eyes of many in attendance.

Among those were potential member Doyle Sasser.

&uot;It was very interesting information to learn,&uot; said Sasser. &uot;Hopefully people like Charles can get to Montgomery and help out.&uot;

Lions Club president Tim Craig also felt that the meeting was very informative.

&uot;Charles did a great job today,&uot; said Craig. &uot;We can always count on him to come speak for us and keep us informed as to what is going on.&uot;

Legislation meetings were set to begin Tuesday.